Gender Dysphoria: An Identity?

The other day I was informed on what gender dysphoria is. It is an identity, supposedly. What is meant by the term “identity” is left unclear by the author. Identity is not a strange term, common examples abound; national identity, political identity, religious identity, and/or some kind of ideal. National identity is an identity of legal status. I would be surprised if dysphoria is supposed to be meant solely as a legal identity. The legal part is usually taken as a sub-part of the problem, not its entirety. The other kind of identity is that of the political/religious which is a choice in belief. It seems that people (the majority) who have dysphoria would proclaim that they do not have a choice in the matter. Thus, what is meant by identity is unclear since it is not a choice and more than just legal status. The most plausible account must be something like this then, “identity is something in which I am born into and that is an essential part of who I am.” This means something more like, “I am intellectual”. Something which can be a keen part of one’s personality without being necessary to everyone. There is a problem still lurking around the corner. Take a person with schizophrenia. They identify as several different people. Each person has their own unique personality. Now, what makes this a mental illness is that it is a deviation from the common human experience and hurts the individual’s ability to function. Both of these conditions are met in the dysphoria experience. Thus, a person who wishes to defend that dysphoria is not a mental illness must find a way of defining the both mental illness such as schizophrenia and gender dysphoria without them overlapping. I wish to end with being clear that I am not picking a side on this debate. Rather I am writing to help clear some ideas, and figure out what things need more clarification .

Saints, Entertainment, and Reflections

As a young Christian, I was used to having entertainment all around me. Because of this, it was shocking to hear some theologians dismiss entertainment. Leonard Ravenhill’s statement, “Entertainment is the devil’s substitute for joy. And because there is not enough joy in the house of God, we want entertainment.” echoed in my mind for a long time. At first, I thought this was absurd. However, I realized that it was likely this man knew of a joy from God that was worth more than entertainment. I now have learned that godly Christians have often held views similar to this. Take a look at what Blaise Pascal has to say,

“All great amusements are dangerous to the Christian life; but among all those which the world has invented there is none more to be feared than the theatre. It is a representation of the passions so natural and so delicate that it excites them and gives birth to them in our hearts…So we depart from the theatre with our hearts so filled with all the beauty and tenderness of love, the soul, and the mind so persuaded of its innocence, that we are quite ready to receive its first impressions, or rather seek an opportunity of awakening them in the heart of another.” ( Pascal, Pensees, Section 1, point 11)

Although the theatre he was talking about has lost momentum, it has been replaced by the movie theater, which is perhaps more dangerous: subtle messages may affect our soul more deeply than we realize, strange ideas of love has certainly been adopted by the masses, and we often lose focus of our Lord unnecessarily when movies numb the mind. This is not to say watching movies is always wrong, but on the whole, I think it should be a rarity in the Christian life.

Raised with flesh or as a spirit? 

Today we celebrate the resurrection of the God-man Jesus Christ! In this wonderful tradition we see victory over death and hope for now and the future. This belief isn’t without some challenges though. Jehovah Witnesses​ believe that Christ was raised with a spiritual body. This is what their website says, “Jesus’ own words showed that he would not be resurrected with his flesh-and-blood body. He said that he would give his “flesh in behalf of the life of the world,” as a ransom for mankind. (John 6:51; Matthew 20:28) ” They are arguing that Jesus’s flesh could not be given for a ransom if he kept his flesh after death. I think it is clear this is not a strong argument. He could give his flesh in the sense of dying in it. Then he could  be restored in flesh after sacrificing it. More importantly there are verses that clearly show he rose in flesh and blood. Check out Like 24:39, “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” Jesus went to some lengths to show his disciples that his resurrection wasn’t one of a spirit body, but a physical one. In this we can conclude He has indeed risen in flesh! 

A Timeless God

Many Christians hold the belief that God is outside of time. They hold this beliefs in part because of tradition. More importantly, some argue that if God were within time then time would be his master and God can have no masters. There are perhaps more reasons for this belief such as considerations from simplicity, but It isn’t clear to me how that works. Either way, I believe this belief is false. My reason for this is both philosophical and theological. I will only dwelve into the theological here. Hebrews 9:25-26 says, “Nor was it to offer himself (Jesus) repeatedly… for then he would suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world.” If God was timeless, then he would see everyday as the same day. Everything would be on a constant repeat. Which means everyday Jesus both died and rises. Yet here it is clear he suffered once for all. Thus, God cannot be timeless. In addition, Jesus said He does not know the day the return will begin. But it is very unclear how He could not know if it is literally happening before his eyes. Thus, we have two good scripturally based reason to deny a timeless conception of God. 

Transgender: A Mental Disease?

“In the last couple of decades, many medical institutions have moved away from the view that being transgender is the result of mental illness, as they previously did with homosexuality.” (http://time.com/4424589/being-transgender-is-not-a-mental-disorder-study/)

Transgender is a term for a person who was born in one sex but has a feeling they are the opposite gender. They often will go to lengths to transform their body to match the feelings they have. According to times, this used to be considered a mental disease but now it isn’t by most organizations. This seems to be done out of practical considerations for how transgender people are treated. Strictly speaking though, the move away from a mental disorder is a tricky one. According to psychiatry.org mental illnesses are ” are health conditions involving changes in thinking, emotion or behavior (or a combination of these)”. This definition rather lose. The definition covers every single person without further stipulation since everyone faces some changes in thinking, etc. (The National Alliance on Mental Illness define mental illness the same way). Clearly, a stipulation such as a frequent change that doesn’t normally occur in other people would be needed. This definition probably needs further clarification as well but should work for our purposes. Now, it seems clear that a transgender person faces a mental difference(s) that most people do not. Does this mean that gender dysphoria is automatically a mental illness? Not necessarily. A view that can help people who wish to claim gender dysphoria is not a mental illness is substance dualism (perhaps other dualism views could as well).
Substance dualism is the idea that people are more than their physical body. Typically there is a brain and a mind/soul. Under this view, a person could be born in the wrong body in the sense that their soul is the opposite gender from their biological sex. If that is the case, then the dysphoria would be a problem based on the incompatibility of the body/soul instead of a brain issue. Now, to be clear I am not making any claims about the truth values of gender dysphoria, substance dualism, or mental illnesses. Rather, I am making the claim that substance dualism would have to be true for gender dysphoria not to be a mental illness. However, it could be the case that substance dualism is true and gender dysphoria is a mental illness, but a different kind of argument would have to be made.

 

Prisoners of the Mind

2 Corinthians 10:5 

We all have thoughts. We all thoughts we wish we didn’t have. We all have thoughts that bring joy. Each of us has a duty to cultivate our thoughts as well. As a farmer cultivates his garden; thoughts must have fertile ground, bad ones must be pulled out, and good ones trimmed to produce better thoughts. 

Our thoughts might be the hardest thing, at first, to take captive to Christ. It is much like a circus up there, where we don’t even know what will come next. The elephants might as well walk properly as stampede, the juggler may catch torch or set the whole place on fire. But this is our circus. Our place to control. We must be like a sheriff, that when any thought steps out of line, we immediately arrest it and place it before Christ. How long will improper thoughts last when brought before the throne of Christ? Whether lust, envy, malice, of slothfulness, each will either straighten up or be eliminated before the one the earth obeys. 

Even if a thought were to break free from its prison per se. Our job is to lock it right back up. It doesn’t matter how many times it escapes, we must place it where it belongs. 

There is another way to make sure improper thoughts stay captive to Christ. Which is to keep the mind on things if the Spirit. Who wants to think about selfishness when the glory of our Lord is being dishonoured, or lost people are sitting on thin ice about hell? Even better when we see people’s live transform that they walk in the newness of life. This is part of the reason why one of the psalmist said, “my eyes are awake before the watches if the night, that I may meditate on your promise”. Which promise? Does not matter. Mediation on any of God’s promises is a good thing. Sure, there are probably some better than others, but we will naturally gravitate towards them in due time.  He understood that thinking about God’s word, promises, ways , was not only glorfiyig to God, but set himself free as well. 

The Curse Became a Blessing

Nehemiah 13:2 ” Yet our God turned the curse into a blessing.” 

This is a story headline which God continues to repeat. He can turn any diastser into a blessing. In the ultimate scheme He turned the biggest cursed into the  largest blessing- Jesus dying on the cross. Oh, that the infinite should taste death  is strange enough. But he became sin for us, cursed on a tree, that is unfathomable.  From this curse, we reap the best fruit — eternal life in the present. 

The eternal life in the present is much more than waiting for heaven. It is heaven on earth. Each of us, or most, have a struggle which feels like a curse. Something that haunts us everyday, taunts our very being. I believe that God wants to turn each of these cursed into a blessing. One, to know the graciousness​ of God to those whom seek Him. Two, to be a blessing who struggle in like affliction. Three, that God may be glorified in healing us. God has always intended to heal his people if they would turn from their evil ways.